Thursday, January 30, 2014

Halfway. Centers. Notes from NBA Stat Audit

Each NBA season, after all teams have played their 41st game, I do a statistical audit of the players in the league, looking specifically at efficiency per-minute. I analyze each player that has logged at least 300 minutes (plus a select few players of note). Here are some tidbits I found interesting about the current NBA landscape at the Center position...

Cuz is out for blood

The most efficient Center per minute played is, by far, DeMarcus Cousins. Following Cousins is Tim Duncan (yes, he is more a Center, than a Power Forward), Al Horford, Brook Lopez, and Al Jefferson completes the top-five. 

Who is in the top 30 in per-minute efficiency at Center, yet is not starting or playing playing heavy minutes? There are five players that fit that description: Timofey Mosgov .603 (14th), Chris Kamen .596 (19th), Chris Andersen .553 (22nd), Kosta Koufos .545 (25th), and Miroslav Raduljica .542 (26th). 

Among those five players, Mosgov, in particular, has shown the most flashes of brilliance. His defensive rating is also good. ...Andersen plays a large role in Miami's winning ways despite logging just 18.5 minutes per game. ...Kamen is seemingly wasting away playing for the Lakers. His EFR suggests he could be helping a team as opposed to receiving DNP-CD's. ...Koufos was given a brief shot while Marc Gasol was injured but the numbers Koufos responded with were nothing to write home about. ...Raduljica is the highest rated rookie Center. At age 26, the Serbian seven footer looks like he has a chance to be heard from in the NBA in the future. 

Which Centers are outside the top 30 in per minute efficiency but are starters or play heavy minutes? There are five here as well: Jonas Valanciunas (31st), Nene (32nd), Channing Frye (37th), Andrea Bargnani (48th), and Kendrick Perkins (54th). 

Bargs is a SF in a C body
Valanciunas is only 21 years old, so I'm not too concerned with his low efficiency relative to his position. ...Nene could be called a Power Forward too. I think he's more of a Center. He would be an ideal first big-man off the bench for a good team. As it stands, Nene gets 30 minutes a game on a decent team. 

Frye and Bargnani just don't rebound the ball well enough to be efficient Centers. Basically these two deep shooting tall guys are Small Forwards in their skill set but they are too slow and big to chase the quicker wing players so they are resigned to playing the position their physical size dictates. 

And Perkins... Perkins can still defend and bang but I'm certain OKC would be better off with the NBA's Kendrick playing less. 

LINKS to analysis of other positions: 
Read Point Guards
Read Shooting Guards
Read Small Forwards
Read Power Forwards

Halfway. Power forwards. Notes from NBA stat audit

Every year after each team has played their 41st game of the NBA season, I do a statistical audit of the players in the league, looking specifically at efficiency per-minute. I analyze each player that has logged at least 300 minutes, plus a select few players of note. Here are some tidbits I found interesting about the current NBA landscape at power-forward...

Power Forwards
Love is #1, Aldridge #3 in PF efficiency.  
The highest rated power forward is Kevin Love at .825. The battle for the runner-up spot in efficiency per minute is a tight one right now. Anthony Davis is fractions ahead of LeMarcus Aldridge, while Blake Griffin ranks solidly in fourth.  ...The crop of efficient power-forwards is deep. Unlike the small forward position, the "four-spot" in the NBA is crowded with players who statistically are not THAT much different from one another. 

We are about to get into some math here - so hang with me... 

The difference, in efficiency points, from the top player at point guard to the 30th rated player at point guard is .335. The same math at small forward produces a result of .454. Meanwhile, the difference, in efficiency points, from the top player at power forward to the 30th rated player at power forward is .299. This means that the range from best, to "30th best", is not as wide at power forward as it is as point guard or small forward. (In case you wondered, the smallest gap is at shooting guard. #1. Dwyane Wade .597 to #30 Eric Gordon .402 = a difference of .195.)

Jordan Hill needs minutes!
Give them some more minutes!

Who are the players who rate in the top 30 at power forward but do not (yet) play heavy minutes? There are 16 players who have yet to have a chance to shine with consistency. 

  • Jordan Hill - Lakers. .657 (ranks 4th) ...He gets spotty, inconsistent minutes from Mike D'Antoni but Hill produces more often than not. 
  • Brandan Wright - Mavs .652 (ranks 7th) ...He is seemingly always hurt. If he could stay healthy and have a coach trust him, Wright is capable of producing. 
  • John Henson - Bucks .629 (ranks 9th) ...Henson has had his share of starts but he still doesn't play heavy minutes with consistency. That happens when you play on a bad team. 
  • Kris Humphries - Celtics .625 (ranks 11th) ...Humphries too has had a handful of starts in Boston but enough to establish a real groove. 
  • DaJuan Blair - Mavs .613 (ranks 12th) ...Blair may not be able to play heavy minutes due to his knees. 
  • Kenneth Faried - Nuggets .609 (ranks 13th) ...One of the real travesties of the 2013-14 NBA season is Faried only averaging 24 minutes per game. 
  • James Johnson - Grizzlies .577 (ranks 15th) ...If Johnson could shoot the long-ball better, I'd call him a small forward. But he can't. The 2014 James Johnson is more physically fit, and more efficient. Can he maintain this and get a contract for the future? Stay tuned. 
  • Markieff Morris - Suns .574 (ranks 16th) ...Markieff plays. But he doesn't get to play enough in our opinion. 
  • Michael Beasley - Heat .553 (ranks 20th) ...Nobody ever questioned his talent. He is in good condition presently. It's great for Miami to get 16 minutes per game off the bench at this efficiency level (similar to how Chris Andersen does it for them at Center). 
    Evans is long and quick!
  • Jeremy Evans - Jazz .549 (ranks 21st) ...Evans is still trying to bulk up. It might be time for a team to give this kid a chance to play meaningful minutes. His ability to 'quick-jump' is elite. He could be a shot-blocking presence in the future. 
  • Jon Leuer - Grizzlies .547 (ranks 22nd) ...Leuer is a skilled BIG but he has trouble as a defender with quicker FOURs
  • Thomas Robinson - Blazers .546 (ranks 23rd) ...Robinson will most likely never be a player that a team runs any plays for. He is an elite NBA athlete, and his activity level, and rebounding prowess may earn him more minutes. It is worth remembering that Robinson is just 22 years old. 
  • Elton Brand - Hawks .541 (ranks 24th) ...In the absence of Al Horford, Atlanta has juggled their lineups and Elton Brand is proving he can still hold his own. 
  • Trevor Booker - Wizards .540 (ranks 25th) ...Booker is just 26 years old and he still has upside. He is strong willed, and "no nonsense". 
  • Ed Davis - Grizzlies .539 (ranks 26th) ...Ed Davis is still a prospect that may, one day, play BIG minutes in the NBA. He needs to gain weight. 
  • Mike Scott - Hawks .531 (ranks 29th) ...Scott is small to be a power forward but he has shown that he can be relatively efficient. 
Thompson gets rejected
Do they play too much? 

The list of power forwards who play heavy minutes, yet are outside of the top 30 in efficiency at the position: David West (31st), Carlos Boozer (32nd), Ryan Anderson (36th), Tristan Thompson (45th), Josh McRoberts (51st), Glen Davis (52nd), and Jason Thompson (55th). ...David West is a premier defender at his position, and a tough-guy that we have no problem with. Boozer's efficiency has slowly slipped the last couple of seasons. We're keeping an eye on it. ...Ryan Anderson can really shoot and his overall efficiency would be nice as a small forward. As a Power Forward, where the landscape is filled more tightly with efficient players, he is just 36th (or a top-tier reserve player). ...Tristan Thompson simply has never been very efficient. Right handed or left handed, Tristan Thompson hovers around the same "mid-tier backup" efficiency. ...McRoberts simply gets out-muscled as a power forward. ...Glen Davis doesn't rebound well enough. 

What about the Kings? 

Sacramento Kings power forwards do not rate well vs. the rest of the NBA's FOURs. Quincy Acy is ranked 54th, and Jason Thompson is 55th. 

Derrick Williams is 67th. As a Small forward, Williams would rank 35th with a .381 EFR. With improved three point shooting, and better care of the basketball, Williams may indeed, one-day, be looked upon as a legitimate Small Forward. So far, he has not achieved that status in our book. (This is a topic that requires more writing than I am willing to do right at this moment. It's about CONSISTENTLY being able to stretch a defense with reliable, accurate deep shooting. And it's about your small forward being the "second point guard" and having the skill and patience to make plays for others with CONSISTENCY. Derrick Williams continues to turn it over more than he assists it, and he is shooting 27% from beyond the arc.)


The highest rated rookie power forward is Kelly Olynyk. He rates 50th out of 76 PF's we examined. A 50th rating at any position equates to a "low-tier backup" ideally. 

Read Point Guards
Read Shooting Guards
Read Small Forwards
Read Centers

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Halfway. Small Forwards. Notes from NBA Stat Audit.

Every year after each team has played their 41st game of the NBA season, I do a statistical audit of the players in the league, looking specifically at efficiency per-minute. I analyze each player that has logged at least 300 minutes, plus a select few others that are of note. Here is a quick synopsis on NBA small forwards halfway through the 2013-14 season...

Small Forwards

Top five EFR's overall in 1991-92:
David Robinson, Michael Jordan,
Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon,
and Brad Daugherty. 
The best basketball player in the world plays small forward. Kevin Durant leads the NBA with a ridiculously high efficiency rating of .850. I've been looking at the same efficiency per-minute rating system for north of 25 years. It is VERY RARE to see a player with an EFR at .850 or above. When I have seen that, the player has been a Center. I can recall David Robinson having an EFR of .865 for the 1991-92 season. So, to see Durant do his thing as a "wing" player is very impressive.  

LeBron James ranks second at .776, followed by Carmelo Anthony .658, and Paul George at .618. Those four are the only "threes" that are above .600.

The disparity between the "have's" and "have nots" in the NBA at small forward is huge. There are only four more guys who rate above .500 (Kawhi Leonard, Nic Batum, Thad Young, and Rudy Gay). 

As always, we like to see who ranks in the top 30 at the position that is presently not starting or playing heavy minutes. We find four such cases ...Mirza Teletovic, who some say is a power forward, ranks 15th. Marcus Morris (Phoenix) ranks 18th and in our opinion could make a good case for getting starters minutes in front of P.J. Tucker. Draymond Green ranks 22nd, well ahead of teammate Harrison Barnes (51st). Barnes plays 29 minutes per game. Green plays 19. Maybe the Warriors should look into reversing those numbers.  ...Shawne Williams, waived by the Lakers, was playing out of position in Los Angeles. He is more of a small forward, with his ability to stretch the floor. He ranked 30th. Perhaps he will find his way back into the NBA as a three-man. Williams recently landed with the D-League's L.A. Defenders. 

Antetokounmpo = future star. 
On the flip side, who is ranked outside the top 30 at small forward, that plays starters minutes? There are five: Jeff Green (31st), Matt Barnes (38th), Richard Jefferson (44th), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (45th), and Corey Brewer (46th). It says here that the Minnesota Timberwolves could really help themselves with a more efficient small forward other than Brewer. 

The highest rated rookie small forward is 19 year old Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. He ranks 29th at the position, or already worth of being a low-tier starter. His upside seems virtually unlimited. 

Read Shooting Guards
Read Small Forwards
Read Power Forwards
Read Centers

Halfway. Shooting Guards. Notes from NBA Stat Audit

Every year after each team has played their 41st game of the NBA season, I do a statistical audit of the players in the league, looking specifically at efficiency per-minute. I analyze each player that has logged at least 300 minutes, plus a select few others that are of note. Here is a quick synopsis of what I learned, about shooting guards...

MJ - the perfect two-guard.
Shooting Guards

The usual suspects are atop the shooting guard, per-minute efficiency rankings. The numbers at the top, historically speaking, are very low. Almost always, there is a two-guard with an efficiency rating over .600. But this season, at the halfway point of the season, there is not a single player that can boast that. The best, still, is the World Champion Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade at .597. He is followed by the Western Conference Champion Spurs' Manu Ginobili at .591. Hmm... So an efficient two-guard is a key winning in the NBA? Word to Michael Jordan it is. 

Ranked third is James Harden at .586. Harden and the Houston Rockets are 25-15 in games he's played in this season. Fourth best is the currently injured Eric Bledsoe at .564. The Phoenix Suns are 16-8 in games where Bledsoe plays. 

In theory, those ranked in the top 30 are worthy of being NBA starters. Who ranks in the top 30 league-wide but is not (yet) a regular starter or 'heavy minutes' player? There are three: Jordan Hamilton, Jimmer Fredette, and Jeremy Lamb. 

The Lambinator!
Jordan Hamilton in Denver, again, rates high (14th) but his defensive liabilities have kept him from gaining favor with Nuggets coach Brian Shaw or George Karl before that. Jimmer Fredette plays backup point guard in Sacramento. Clearly, he is being mis-labeled. Fredette's assist-to-turnover ratio ranks 196th of 452 players in the NBA. (His teammate Quincy Acy has a better assist-to-turnover ratio). As a shooting guard, Fredette's efficiency rating of .447 would rank him tied for 17th at the position. Like Hamilton, Fredette's defense is beyond sketchy. Jimmer ranks 407th of 452 in "defensive rating". ...Lamb, ranked 22nd, is the most likely player to be a full fledged NBA starter among Hamilton and Fredette. 

Who is an NBA starter at shooting guard that ranks outside the top 30? Joe Johnson (31st), Gerald Henderson (33rd), Klay Thompson (34th), Randy Foye (38th), Jodie Meeks (40th), James Anderson (41st), Dion Waiters (49th), Jimmy Butler (50th), J.R. Smith (51st), Thabo Sefolosha (57th), and Marcus Thornton (59th). Among those eleven players, only three play on winning teams (Klay, Foye, and Thabo). 

The highest rated rookie at the position is Victor Oladipo. The Magic's new guy ranks 25th. ...Sacramento's Ben McLemore ranks 66th of 74. Any player outside outside the top 60 at any NBA position is a guy that probably should not be playing meaningful minutes; at least not on a team serious about winning as many games as possible. 

Read about point guards here.

Halfway. Point Guards. Notes from the NBA statistical audit

Every year after each team has played their 41st game of the NBA season, I do a statistical audit of the players in the league, looking specifically at efficiency per-minute. I analyze each player that has logged at least 300 minutes, plus a select few others that are of note. Here is a quick synopsis of what I learned, starting with point guards...

CP3 has the power
Point Guards

Chris Paul, as expected, is the highest ranked. It's not close. He is followed by the trio of Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, and John Wall. ...Isaiah Thomas ranks fifth in the NBA, well ahead of more ballyhooed ballers like Brandon Jennings (26th), and Jeremy Lin (38th). 

There are 30 teams in the NBA and each has a starting point guard. Who ranks in the top 30 league-wide but is not (yet) a regular starter? There are three: Patty Mills (San Antonio), Shelvin Mack (Atlanta), and Nate Robinson (Denver). 

Who is a regular NBA starter but not ranked in the top 30? There are five: Jose Calderon (32nd), Trey Burke (35th), George Hill (43rd), Raymond Felton (54th), Patrick Beverley (55th). The fact that Indiana, the best team in the league presently, has a starting point guard rated this low, raises a red flag for me. In the Playoffs, can the Pacers, who do not have a Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh talent combo, really win a championship without a dynamic point guard? I'm not sure. Having Lance Stephenson alongside Hill helps because Lance can create his shot off the dribble... but let's mark down point guard efficiency as a potential trouble spot for Indiana. 

Ray Felton has been inefficient for multiple seasons in the NBA. He is past his expiration date. The Knicks would be wise to quit messing around with Felton, Beno Udrih (46th), and Pablo Prigioni (45th). None of those guys are getting any better. And none of those guys are good enough to lead the Knicks to a Playoff series win. 

And finally, how about Kendall Marshall? Called up from the D-League after having been left for dead, Marshall ranks 25th, which rates him out as a low-tier starter in the NBA at age 22. 

LINKS to analysis of other positions: 
Read Shooting Guards
Read Small Forwards
Read Power Forwards
Read Centers

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Latest NBA Stat Audit

Data informed. That's how we roll.
Our latest NBA stat audit is complete. We look closely at per-minute efficiency twice a month. In an effort to share more with you - we will simply list on this blog what would normally be 'chicken scratched' onto a blank piece of computer printer paper.

Point Guards: Chris Paul .778, Stephen Curry .634, Russell Westbrook .626, Isaiah Thomas .580, Michael Carter-Williams .559, John Wall .555,  Ty Lawson .554, Damian Lillard .543, Kyle Lowry .543, Tony Parker .542, Goran Dragic .536, Mike Conley Jr. .526, Jrue Holiday .522, Kyrie Irving .520, Darren Collison .504, Kendall Marshall .504, Ricky Rubio .502, Deron Williams .501, Reggie Jackson .495, Jordan Farmar .495, Jeff Teague .479, Kemba Walker .471, Brandon Jennings .453.

Shooting Guards: Dwyane Wade .616, Manu Ginobili .604, James Harden .578, Eric Bledsoe .564, Tyreke Evans .542, Monta Ellis .495, Arron Afflalo .495, J.J. Redick .490, Lance Stephenson .489, Wesley Matthews .482, C.J. McCollum .481, Jimmer Fredette .477, Marco Belinelli .476, Kevin Martin .466, Evan Turner .465, Jordan Crawford .462,  Jeremy Lamb .452, Tony Allen .437

Durant ranks second to Love overall
Small Forwards: Kevin Durant .830, LeBron James .783, Carmelo Anthony .635, Paul George .603, Kawhi Leonard .530, Nicolas Batum .522, Rudy Gay .504, Luol Deng .494, Chandler Parsons .493, Gordon Hayward .487, Al Farouq Aminu .480, Trevor Ariza .470, Andre Iguodala .469, Marcus Morris .465, Jordan Hamilton .459, Josh Smith .456, DeMar DeRozan .455, C.J. Miles .445,

Power Forwards: Kevin Love .833, Anthony Davis .738, LeMarcus Aldridge .701, Blake Griffin .698, Al Horford .685, Jordan Hill .679, Dirk Nowitzki .674, Brandan Wright .656, David Lee .646, Kris Humphries .634, Kenneth Faried .624, John Henson .619, Paul Millsap .610, DaJuan Blair .609, Serge Ibaka .592, J.J. Hickson .576, Zach Randolph .567, Terrence Jones .559, Jeremy Evans .558, Thaddeus Young .554, Andray Blatche .551, James Johnson .550, Miles Plumlee .546, Michael Beasley .543, Ed Davis .541, Jared Sullinger .540, Mike Scott .539, Thomas Robinson .536, David West .531.

Centers: DeMarcus Cousins .810, Tim Duncan .697, Dwight Howard .675, Brook Lopez .675, Andre Drummond .659, Andrew Bogut .649, Pau Gasol .621, Spencer Hawes .620, Nikola Vucevic .619, Nikola Pekovic .605, Joakim Noah .602, DeAndre Jordan .601, Al Jefferson .600, Timofey Mosgov .594, Marc Gasol .587, Chris Bosh .573, Anderson Varejao .573, Chris Kamen .573, Derrick Favors .568, Tiago Splitter .562, Samuel Dalembert .551, Kosta Koufos .549, Roy Hibbert .542, Greg Monroe .536, Marcin Gortat .531.

Rookies: Carter-Williams .559, Steven Adams .489, McCollum .481, Mason Plumlee .468, Rudy Gobert .448, Vitor Faverani .437, Alex Len .426, Giannis Antetokounmpo .425, Trey Burke .419, Kelly Olynyk .417, Victor Oladipo .399, Tim Hardaway Jr. .371, Cody Zeller .369, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope .274, Archie Goodwin .256, Tony Snell .250, Shane Larkin .248, Ben McLemore .247, Ray McCallum .227, Dennis Schroeder .222, Otto Porter Jr. .211, Anthony Bennett .165, Shabazz Muhammad .098.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Post D League Showcase Report

Open 24 hours, an ideal location
for the D-League Showcase
Five days in Reno allowed time to scout and crunch numbers on the players in the NBA D-League. The annual Showcase, held at the Reno Event Center, was a basketball lover's paradise with three or four games each day. Not surprisingly, players on assignment from NBA clubs dominated the action.

I am a tough critic, and to be honest, aside from four or five guys, I didn't see much from any current non-NBA player at the Showcase that made me believe, 'this guy should be in the NBA right now!'. For what its worth, I have had that feeling only twice when it comes to the D-League. The first time was a couple years back in the D-League All-Star Game when Gerald Green went koo koo. The most recent time was the day Kendall Marshall entered the D League player pool. 

Big Ike can score.
Can he stop anybody? 
I did see glimpses of greatness in the Biggest Little City in the World. Josiah Turner has the high-ceiling ability to make plays that mirrored NBA speed. Ron Howard and James Nunnally played with the poise of true NBA players. Ike Diogu put opponents in his low-post 'torture chamber'. James Southerland shot the ball, in rhythm, like a seasoned NBA vet. 

However, the vast majority of players in the D-League are in the minors for a reason. This is not meant to be harsh. It is simply reality. The National Basketball Association is a tough player pool to break into; the toughest in the world. You can pick apart every player in the D-League's individual game in some fashion, fairly easily, when held to the NBA standard. For example, let's look quickly at the five players listed as the "Top Prospects" on the D-League website, and then tell you why they are in the D-League to begin with...
  • Pierre Jackson - He's a scoring guard in a 5'10" frame. 1.21-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is not NBA point guard worthy. At 5'10" - he'd be in big trouble guarding a position where the average NBA starter is 6'4"
  • Devin Ebanks - His poor shot selection, below average shooting percentage, and below-average decision making with the ball are as much a part of his game as the positive things he does. 
  • Dewayne Dedmon - Still raw. Not a guy you run plays for. Very predictably going to his right. Turnover prone. 
  • Jarvis Varnado - Not good offensively. He turns it over more than three times for every one assist. A center in a power forward's body. 
  • Manny Harris - A shooting guard that can't shoot from deep. He's 24% from 3-pt. Overall, only 44% FG. 
All of the above players may well be in the NBA before the 2013-14 season is complete. Or... they just as easily, in my opinion, could remain in the D-League to try to improve or maybe cash in with a big contract overseas. 

Siva is a natural leader
How about what we liked? ...After much scrutiny, and with all things considered, here is how we rate the top 15 players we witnessed in Reno. 

1. Peyton Siva -  Fort Wayne / Detroit. 6'0" PG. Age 23. ...Siva is steady. While I don't really see much upside in his game, he showed that he can run a team, defend, limit turnovers, and be a leader. His 2.23-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio is solid. His poise and effort is outstanding. 

2. Nando De Colo - Austin / San Antonio. 6'5" SG. Age 26. ...De Colo is a combo guard that really needs to take better care of the ball to be called a point guard. His average athleticism is notable as well. But De Colo is also skilled, and he gives an honest effort on defense. He gained favor in my eyes with his focus and approach to the game.  

3. Rudy Gobert - Bakersfield / Utah. 7'2" C. Age 21. ...Gobert used his superior height and finesse to do just about anything he wanted to do in Reno. He has rebounded the ball at a ridiculous rate (.446 rebounds per-minute) in his time in the D-League. 

4. Dominic McGuire -  Santa Cruz. 6'9" PF. Age 28. ...McGuire remains the kind of guy you could put in an NBA game and he would fit right in. He does nothing spectacularly but he rarely makes mistakes. In Reno, he rebounded the ball well, and played a team game with nine assists and only four turnovers in 79 minutes. 

5. Gilbert Brown - Canton. 6'6" SG. Age 26. ...Brown busted 24 points in a win over Texas on Tuesday. He is an NBA athlete without question. Since being put into the Charge starting lineup four games ago, Brown is averaging 20.0 points, 5.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds. 

6. Jamario Moon - Los Angeles. 6'8" SF. Age 33. ...Moon is playing out of position most of the time for the L.A. Defenders. At Reno, he played center or power forward. I see him as an NBA small forward. He can hit the three-ball, and he makes good decisions with the ball (2.26-to-1 ast-to-turnover ratio).
7. Lorenzo Brown -  Delaware / Philadelphia. 6'5" PG. Age 23. ...I've never doubted Brown's talent or ability. He has NBA skill. It's always been, "does he bring it?". Thursday, Brown played 41 minutes in a 113-108 loss. His four turnovers were costly. 

Turner drops dimes. 
8. Josiah Turner - Los Angeles. 6'3" PG. Age 21. ...The Sacramento native is playing well in the D-League. Turner is an NBA athlete with the kind of instinctive ability that good NBA players have. His transgressions are well-documented. Can he stay on the right path and be a consistent professional? If he can, I'd expect him to be in the NBA very soon. 

9. Reggie Williams - Tulsa. 6'6" SG. Age 27. ...Williams has always had the ability to score. Nothing has changed. 

10. Jorge Gutierrez - Canton. 6'3", age 25. ...He plays the game the right way. Gutierrez is a defense-first point guard that has never been known as an offensive threat. His D-League numbers on offense are better this season than his historical track record. 

11. Jarvis Varnado - Iowa. 6'9" C/PF. Age 25. ...Varnado is the best shot-blocker that is not in the NBA. His overall game is improving as he adds a bit more offense. But mostly, Varnado is still a rebounder and shot blocker. 

12. Dewayne Dedmon -  Santa Cruz. 7'0" C. Age 24. ...Dedmon is not a guy you run plays for but his activity, rebounding, running, and blocking shots is enough to keep him efficient. He really needs to work on his off-hand (left). 

13. Ty Walker - Maine. 7'0" C. Age 24. ...Once the #2 ranked high-school player of his class by, Ty Walker is now playing well in the D-League. He is a skinny seven footer that has shot-blocking ability. Many of the shots he doesn't block, he alters. 

14. Marshon Brooks - Maine / Boston. 6'5" SG. Age 24. ...Brooks' game is still all about getting himself buckets, but he's such a good scorer that I think he could be asset to a team that needs an offensive spark. Brooks has also made strides in limiting turnovers. He owns a 1.47-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 174 minutes of D-League play this season. 

15. Othyus Jeffers - Iowa. 6'5" SG. Age 28. ...Jeffers can still get to the free throw line, putting pressure on opposing defenses. He also rebounds very well for his size. 

Bonus five with small sample size: 

Kiwi impressed us
at both ends of the floor. 
Kiwi Gardner - Santa Cruz. 5'7" PG. Age 20. ...The Manteca, CA. product is a bundle of energy that provides defensive pressure and aggressive offensive play. He was "up into" whoever he guarded. At the other end of the floor, Gardner scored like a two-guard. He's not well known at all, and not thought of as a potential call-up to the NBA. Yet. 

Kevin Murphy -  Idaho. 6'6" SG. Age 23. ...Freshly acquired by Idaho after a stint in France, Murphy showed that he is still a legitimate scorer. Murphy was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz. He appeared in 17 games for Utah during the 2012-13 season. 

Shabazz Muhammad - Iowa / Minnesota. 6'6" SG. Age 21. ...He did what an NBA guy should do in a assignment down in the D-League. Muhammad scored virtually at will in two games at the Showcase. He put up 46 points in 48 minutes. He also snared 18 boards, and had five assists and only one turnover. The five assists are a revelation in his game considering his ball-hog style at UCLA (He had only 27 assists in nearly 1,000 minutes as a Bruin). 

Darius Johnson-Odom -  Springfield. 6'2" SG. Age 24. ..."D.J.O." continues to remind me of Tony Delk. The difference being that Johnson-Odom gets to the free throw line more often. "D.J.O." scored a Springfield Armour record 41 points Thursday. Johnson-Odom most recently was playing in China. 

Marquis Teague - Iowa / Chicago. PG. Age 20. ...Teague has a 1.72-to-1 assist to turnover ratio in the D League. He can "turn the corner" with great speed. He still struggles to make shots with consistency. 

No bueno. ...As always in a competitive environment, there are those at the low end of the spectrum. I only "judge" basketball players, and I'd be remiss if I didn't make a list of those who I just don't see much hope for when it comes to making the NBA. Here are five players I would advise D-League teams to cut loose. 

Abdul Gaddy - Maine. Shooting 34% FG, and puts no pressure on opposing defenses. He's never been efficient. 

Reggie Hearn - Idaho. ...Another guy shooting 34% FG. And he's 59% from the free throw line. More turnovers than assists. 

Bruce Massey - Springfield. Point guard has the good assist-to-turnover ratio but the rest of his game is below average. 

Mychel Thompson - Santa Cruz. Klay's brother can't throw it in the ocean. He's shooting 30% FG. 

Mfon Udofia - Delaware. Simply not efficient. At all. 

Notes: It was cool to meet and mingle with basketball people from all over the world during the Showcase in Reno. Dallas Mavericks international scout Luca Desta was among those curious about what I was doing, taking notes, at the games. Desta could not have been more pleasant and professional. ...USA Today, NBA writer Sam Amick was fun to watch working the room. Amick knows everybody! ...Young, aspiring scout Josh Hallman was another guy that obviously shares the same passion for basketball that I have. ...The trio of Erika Beutler, Josie Pappas, and Leonie Mendoza made the drive from Santa Cruz, where they work in the Warriors' front-office, to support their team. Beutler said she doubts Dewayne Dedmon will be in the D-League much longer with the numbers he's been posting. ...The coffee gelato at Millies24 at the El Dorado Hotel and Casino is to die for. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Shabazzmatazz! Muhammad lights up Reno

Shabazz Muhammad can score
Shabazz Muhammad was the most efficient player on day three of the 2014 NBA D-League Showcase in Reno, NV. The rookie, on assignment from the Rick Adelman coached, Minnesota Timberwolves, went for 24 points in 26 minutes in the Iowa Energy's 133-121 victory over the Bakersfield Jam Tuesday morning. Muhammad is a bit of a mystery to most NBA followers because he seldom gets to play. Muhammad's strong day in Reno was a reminder to not dismiss him. The "Adelman Factor" has to be considered here. The veteran coach leans toward veteran players he trusts. Rookies that play for Adelman can be bench warmers for months before seeing any meaningful minutes in an NBA contest. If you don't believe me, ask Kevin Martin about his rookie year in Sacramento.

Joining Muhammad on the Energy is Othyus Jeffers. The 28 year-old who has NBA experience is making a case that he should be back up in the "big show".  Jeffers had 19 points (6-12 FG, 6-6 FT), six rebounds, five assists, and three steals in 26 minutes.

NOTES: We were told that DeAndre Liggins will soon sign a deal with the Chicago Bulls. It hasn't happened yet but that doesn't mean that it will not happen. ...Dexter Pittman is here and he is in shape. Unfortunately, as I scouted his game, the only thing I wrote down about him was his name. ...Marshon Brooks was a one-man offensive machine for Maine. On assignment from Boston, Brooks did what he does for a team that has the non-scorer Abdul Gaddy running the point. Brooks scored 24 points and he was efficient in doing so. Maine destroyed what I thought was going to be a good Austin team, 118-92. Brooks' game is still primarily "off the bounce". He uses his one-on-one skills, and height advantage to score going toward the hoop. ...I did not see much "wing" play from Malcolm Thomas. He played either power forward or center for Austin alongside Eric Dawson.  ...Rudy Gobert was again incredibly efficient in his run for Bakersfield. The Jazz rookie BIG had eleven points, 12 boards, and three blocked shots in 24 minutes.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Six games in. What have we learned at the D-League Showcase?

The 2014 D League Showcase is six games old and at least one thing is becoming increasingly clear to me. The crystallization is: the play of the "BIGs" in the D-League is nowhere close to how good the BIGs of the NBA are. This is obvious on the defensive end. Players that can penetrate are rewarded more in the D-League due to less resistance at the rim. This is a crucial aspect to understand when evaluating players here. It simply doesn't impress me that Manny Harris can penetrate and score against back line help from Justin Hamilton. I'm not picking on Hamilton, I'm just using him as a prime example of why you would be wise to discount (not totally dismiss, but discount) big numbers from penetrating guards. I'm also not picking on Manny Harris, who Sam Amick reported, has been the subject of inquiry from the Oklahoma City Thunder. (My take on Harris is documented in my pre D-League Showcase blog. ) ...For much of the game this evening, the Los Angeles Defenders played with Jamario Moon (a skinny, 6'8", 205 lb. small forward), as their Center.  That too speaks volumes about how easy it can be to score near the rim in the D-League.

This also is not to say that there are not any shot blocking BIGs here. Tony Mitchell, although credited with just two blocks in the official box-score, had at least four blocked shots as a power forward paint protector today. Dallas Lauderdale blocked seven shots in a game for Idaho this morning. I'm saying that, in general, it is easy to see that the defensive play in the paint is just not very good compared to the NBA.

Scouting thoughts: Trey McKinney-Jones is a better athlete than I realized he was. He is more than just a wing shooter.  ...Dewayne Dedmon is efficient but raw. He heavily favors his right hand and is very predictable when isolated low. I think he could be an NBA player just on hustle plays with his length and athleticism. But he is not ready to be a guy you run plays for (other than ally-oops at the rim in the D-League). ...I heard it said that Ron Howard reminds some of a mini Ray Allen. For me, James Nunnally fits that description better. I liked Nunnally in Summer League, and I liked him again last night in Bakersfield's romp over Sioux Falls. Nunnally just plays, and makes shots. He is a fantastic complementary teammate. ...Rudy Gobert, on assignment from the Utah Jazz, was dominant in that same Bakersfield game. Gobert and Ike Diogu looked like sixth graders playing against kindergartners. Diogu, I'm certain, is still an NBA caliber power forward. I've believed for some time that Diogu is better than at least a half-dozen guys in the NBA right now. (You want names? I'd take Diogu before Jan Vesely, Udonis Haslem, Darrell Arthur, Charlie Villanueva, Jeff Adrien, or Matt Bonner.) "Big Ike" might not look enthused but I think that is just his natural demeanor. He remains efficient on a per-minute basis whether he smiles or not. ...Josiah Turner caught my eye. The 21 year-old L.A. Defenders' point guard has had issues with immaturity but there is no denying the natural basketball playing ability he has. He is an NBA athlete and he has good vision with the ball in his hands. He has great quickness and the ability to break his man down off the dribble. His help defense, on the other hand, is, shall we say, "a work in progress."

Brownlee went HAM
My All D- League Showcase Team for the first six games:

PG: Nando De Colo, Pierre Jackson.
SG: James Nunnally, Darren White, A.J. Davis.
SF: Justin Brownlee, Jamario Moon, Kellen Thornton, James Southerland.
PF: Ike Diogu, Malcolm Thomas.
C: Rudy Gobert, Dallas Lauderdale.

NOTES: The NBA was wise to choose Reno and the Events Center as a host for the Showcase. Teams stay at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, which is just one block from the where the basketball games are played. The entire setup is fan friendly, and team friendly. 24 hour restaurants are available without leaving the premises. The casino provides something to do during downtime.  ...Former Sacramento Kings player Conner Henry is the Head Coach of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants. They showed heart in the second half of their game with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Fort Wayne rallied from a 22 point deficit to win.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Pre D-League Showcase 2014. Narrowing the focus.

It is 2:28 am Sunday morning, and in a few hours I will be off to Reno for the NBA D-League Showcase. In advance of the trip – I did a statistical audit of the D-League’s 2013-14 season to date. The results of the audit will help me focus, from the first jump ball, on players that are efficient. It also helps me sift out players that just are not producing.

By now, after their college careers, and summer league play – I have a feel for many of the prospects’ games. What I intend to gain by going on this scouting mission is to see these players in person, and to use my own feel for whether or not they are “NBA athletes”. I also like to further scrutinize their ability to defend. I observe their shot selection, their willingness to play team-ball, and their natural ability to stay enthused.

Here is a peek into a handful of players that intrigue me prior to the start of the Showcase:

Malcolm Thomas – Austin. Thomas is a member of the Spurs currently on assignment in the D-League. The former San Diego St. standout is starting to make the three-point shot with increased accuracy (18 of 37, 48% in D-League games this season). He is also making better decisions with the ball. Thomas owns a 1.44-to-1 ast-to-T.O. ratio which also strengthens his case to be looked at as a potential wing player. Thomas is an underrated shot blocker at 6’9” but a wiry 225 lbs. He is too often over-matched at PF. He doesn't rebound the ball well enough to be effective in the NBA as a FOUR. But if Thomas can defend NBA small forwards, continue to hit three-point shots,  and maintain that positive assist-to-turnover ratio, – that could be a game changer for his career.

Richard Howell – Idaho. 6’8” 257. I thought Howell was NC State’s best player on a team filled with prospects last season. He is a dependable rebounder and low post player. Howell became the fifth player in Wolfpack history to record 1,000 career points and 1,000 rebounds. He has a nice feel for the game. He can score in the low post or facing the hoop. He worked to improve each season. He raised his scoring and rebounding averages each year at N.C. St. ...Howell's standing reach is 8'9.5" (same as Paul Millsap). So far in the D-League’s young season, Howell has a positive assist-to-turnover ratio (something he could not boast in college). ...Howell's overall efficiency suggests he can be a top-tier NBA reserve power forward. …On the down-side, Howell was just a 63% free throw shooter in college.  So far in the D-League, Howell is shooting 61% from the line.

Dedmon is Warriors property. 
Dewayne Dedmon – Santa Cruz. Dedmon is averaging 16 points, and 15 rebounds per game. He is the most efficient Center in the D-League. The seven-footer from USC has a solid defensive rating, and he is blocking shots and rebounding at a high level. He is property of the Golden State Warriors. 

Arinze Onuaku – Canton. Onuaku is a 6’9” BIG that has been scoring enough in the D-League to make NBA teams consider that maybe he is a bit more than just a rebounder/tough guy in the paint. The former Syracuse paint protector still can’t make his free throws with any consistency (55%).

Robert Covington – Rio Grande Valley. Covington is a productive forward that currently is shooting the long-ball at a lower rate (31.7%) than his college numbers suggested. That said, Covington IS scoring and rebounding well in the D-League. He knocks down his foul shots too (88%). Covington is a classic "late-bloomer". He changed his body during college - going from a skinny 175 lbs. out of high school to a more suitable 215 lbs. this season. His standing reach is 8'10" (equal to reach of Thaddeus Young, Kyle Singler, and Wes Johnson). Covington made the Portsmouth Invitational All-Tournament Team.

Nando De Colo – Austin. De Colo is a member of the San Antonio Spurs that has used the D-League to sharpen his combo-guard game. He’s only played in five games in the “D”, and he may not be playing in the Showcase. I’ve liked De Colo for a while now. His defensive rating in the small sample size is excellent, and he already posted NBA efficiency per-minute numbers, as a rookie last season, that have me convinced he could be a “rotation” player in the NBA right now. De Colo scores at a high rate per-minute, while maintaining a 1.5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Eric Dawson – Austin. 6’9” 255. Big man is 29 years old and he is still rebounding and blocking shots at a high rate.

Thornton. Does he play any D?
Kellen Thornton – Idaho. Thornton’s efficiency per minute is the highest among players who have logged over 150 minutes in the D-League this season. He is a 6’7”, 215 lb. forward that is rebounding and scoring at a high rate. However, his defensive rating is terrible, and he’s been a “minus” in his last seven games. Is there ANY hope for his defense? If there is, he may be a player worth watching closely.

Othyus Jeffers – Iowa. I’ve always admired Jeffers’ game. He plays D, he gets to the free throw line, and he helps on the boards from the guard spot. If he could somehow shoot the long-ball better, and make better decisions with the ball, he would be a better prospect. At 6’5” 210, he physically fits right into the mold of a TWO in the NBA.  But the negative assist-to-turnover ratio and poor deep perimeter shooting are why Jeffers is in the D-League.

Manny Harris – Los Angeles. Harris is another case of a shooting guard that does not knock down the deep ball very well (25% 3-pt.). That said, Harris may be the best prospect as a “scorer” in the D-League. Harris puts pressure on defenses with his ability to penetrate. He gets to the foul line often (85% FT). He is not quite a point guard but his 1.17-to-1 ast-to-T.O. ratio is passable for a combo guard.

Jamario Moon – Los Angeles. Moon is perhaps the most versatile player in the D-League. He hits threes at an accurate percentage (44%), he blocks shots, and he has an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3-to-1). He’s an 81% free throw shooter, and he plays defense. There is a lot to like about Moon’s game results so far this season. At age 33, is anyone willing to give him another shot?